A woman holds a child showing cholera symptoms at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on October 7, 2022 – Copyright AFP/File Richard Pierrin
UN leader Antonio Guterres on Saturday slammed the world’s rich countries and energy giants for throttling poor nations with “predatory” interest rates and crippling fuel prices.
Guterres told a summit of the most deprived states on the planet that wealthy nations should provide $500 billion a year to help others “trapped in vicious cycles” that block their efforts to boost economies and improve health and education.
The summit of the 46 Least Developed Countries (LDC) is normally held every 10 years but has twice been delayed since 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Afghanistan and Myanmar, two of the poorest countries, are not present at the meeting in Doha because their governments are not recognised by UN members.
No leader from any of the world’s major economies attended.
At the summit opening, Guterres hit out straight away at the way poor nations are treated by the more powerful.
“Economic development is challenging when countries are starved for resources, drowning in debt, and still struggling with the historic injustice of an unequal COVID-19 response,” he said.
The LDCs have long complained that they did not get their fair share of the Covid vaccines that were concentrated on Europe and North America.
“Combatting climate catastrophe that you did nothing to cause is challenging when the cost of capital is sky-high” and the financial help received “is a drop in the bucket”, said Guterres.
“Fossil fuel giants are raking in huge profits, while millions in your countries cannot put food on the table.”
Guterres said the poorest nations were being left behind in the “digital revolution” and the Ukraine war had only increased prices they pay for food and fuel.
– Broken promises –
“Our global financial system was designed by wealthy countries, largely to their benefit,” he said.
“Deprived of liquidity, many of you are locked out of capital markets by predatory interest rates,” the UN leader said.
Wealthy nations had failed to keep a promise to give 0.15-0.20 percent of their Gross National Income to LDCs.
With poorer states trapped in a “perfect storm for perpetuating poverty and injustice”, Guterres said LDCs required a “minimum” $500 billion a year to help overcome their problems, build up job creating industries and repay debts.
Richer countries have also vowed, but failed, to produce hundreds of billions of dollars to help poorer states to help battle climate change. Guterres said the UN would “keep pushing for the resources already promised”.
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera, the summit chairman, also hit out at the “broken promises” made by the international community.
He said that aid was “not a favour or an act of charity” but a “moral responsibility”.
Under proposals called the Doha Programme of Action, a food stockholding system will be set up to help countries facing hunger crises through drought and high prices.
The plan also calls for an investment centre to help LDCs attract foreign funding and lower interest rates to ease the impact of their debts.
Bhutan will this year become one of seven countries — along with Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands to “graduate” out of LDC status by 2026.
But they will gradually lose trade and aid privileges. Guterres said they risk becoming “victims of the cruelest sleight-of-hand trick — support systems vanishing before their eyes” and would need help after they move up the wealth scale.